California Food Fascists To Kids: Don't Eat That Shrek Action Figure

Supervisors in the insolvent county of Santa Clara, California have taken time out from failing to address their rapidly growing budget shortfall in order to tackle a more pressing problem: toys in Happy Meals.

"This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on children’s love of toys to peddle high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium kids meals," Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager announced after the supes voted 3-2 to prohibit toys in meals containing more than 485 calories or 600 milligrams of sodium. "This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes."

The ban on toys in McDonalds Happy Meals and their counterparts at other restaurants only applies to unincorporated county areas and thus will only affect about a dozen restaurants. However, the move has attracted wide attention because California bellwether so goes the nation blah blah blah. The Golden State was also a pioneer in requiring nutritional information brochures in fast food joints, various fizzy-drink limitations, and other efforts to limit consumer choice that have since become popular in other parts of the country.

The location of the new ban is significant for another reason. Santa Clara is home to one of the greatest concentrations of wealth on Planet Earth, yet this year the county is looking at a $52 million budget shortfall, while next year's budget gap is projected to exceed $250 million. In the face of this kind of monumental failure of governance, Yeager should be impeached for wasting the public's time with this asinine new law.

Encouragingly, it appears even in the heart of the Silicon Valley, voters have had enough of this kind of nonsense. The California Restaurant Association has released a survey that (with all due caution about considering the source) says 80 percent of county residents believe Barbie Mermaid toys are "not an important issue for local government and lawmakers to be involved in," while "87 percent of county residents believe ordinary citizens are better informed than local government and lawmakers about what foods sold in restaurants are healthy and nutritious."

Judging by the man-in-the-street quotations from coverage of this issue, the number of residents who believe the new law is a waste of time is closer to 100 percent:

"What we need to understand is that these fast-food restaurants are spending hundreds of millions of dollars - they know exactly what they're doing by using these toys, cartoon toys, toys that are associated with movies - to try to entice the children to come in and have the meal," Yeager told CBS News Station KPIX-TV in San Francisco when he proposed the measure March 23.

Mother Deborah Dini told KPIX-TV that taking toys out of fast-food meals won't discourage parents from taking their kids to fast-food restaurants.

"They'll still take their kids to the drive-thru and fast food because it's easy and it's fast," Dini said.

This swooning and inaccurate panegyric for the ban by Tim Hayward of the U.K. Guardian draws very little support even from staunch Ronald haters. Comments range from the bemused but unsupportive ("Seems a bit unfair to ban entirely the odd unhealthy treat with gift.") to the vehemently unsupportive ("So we can only draw the conclusion that this isn't about childhood obesity, it's about well-meaning but clueless yuppies creating a bogeyman because they can't think of anything better to do.")

If, on the other hand, you don't think your family can survive the dystopian nightmare of a country where restaurants -- exactly like crack dealers -- hook kids by giving them three crayons and a placemat with activities, Santa Clara may soon be a safe haven. The ban will go into effect in 90 days. Meanwhile, fear not: Shrek Happy Meal toys are still available on eBay.

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  • Nitori Kawashiro||

    Wow: bullshit even a Grauniadite can see through! And what's a "good, honest burgher"?

  • anarch||

  • spencer||

    i was having breakfast with my grandmother and she mentioned how evil it was for these fast food companies to exploit hard working people by offering them fatty foods and i nearly lost it.
    However, she is my grandma and yelling at her would be wrong.

  • TP||

    to try to entice the children to come in and have the meal

    I know at the McD's near me, there's a constant flow of kids coming in to get their happy meals. I mean, really, where are their parents? They give them the keys to the car, a $20 bill, and say, "go get something to eat, I'm too tired". So, the kids hop in the parent's car and drive to McD's to get their happy meals. And half the time they don't even eat the shit that's in there, they just want the toys.

  • Flyover Country||

    How many kids who drive are getting happy meals for the toys? My 9 year old son doesn't even want the toys anymore

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    It is worse than you imagine. The new rules specifically ban kid's meals that have any single item with over 200 calories. I checked the McDonald's site - a small hamburger is 250 calories. 150 of those calories come from the bread. For comparison - a granola bar has 200 calories. You could construct an entire health-food meal and still run afoul of this idiotic rule.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    Taking that small burger and replacing burger with carrot sticks would still violate the rule. Just a small bun with carrot sticks and some ranch dressing would top 200 calories. Brilliant job guys!

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    Checking another website: that staple of childhood - the peanut butter and jelly sandwich wouldn't qualify either. It has 300 calories. more than the 250 calories that disqualified the McDonald's hamburger meal.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    That other staple - Mac and Cheese won't cut it either. A whopping 343 calories per serving. Heck, that only leaves 140 calories for the entire rest of the meal - so you couldn't have mac and cheese with a glass of milk and stay under their guidelines. Idiots.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    So let's get a nice healthy meal for a small kid - Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat (300 calories), side of macaroni and cheese with broccoli (350 calories), glass of fresh organic whole milk (150 calories) , one decent sized fuji apple for desert (100 calories). That sounds pretty healthy to me. Oops, that's 900 calories. Double their limit.

  • ed||

    California Food Fascists

    Remember when we called them "food cops" and had a nice giggle, because it was so absurd? The notion that a little gang of busybodies could pass laws restricting how much fat or salt or sugar we could eat was paranoid libertarian fantasy. Americans would never stand for that kind of bullying.

  • Adam||

    Ed, it's an idea worth trying.

    Ed, it's something that should be adopted everywhere.

    Ed, I can't believe you want to go back to the way it was.

    Ed, give me a break, as if there was ever a time when the government DIDN'T tell us what to eat! That would NEVER work!

  • Food Nazi||

    You Americans are the Only Industrialized Nation In The World™ that allows its citizens to eat anything they want. Grow up and smell the bean sprouts.

  • Forrest||

    This is not a restriction on how much fat or calories you can eat. It's not like Happy Meals are banned, you drama queens.

    Maybe my copy of the Bill of Rights is out of date, but I don't see any right to free movie toys with a bovine shit disc on bread listed in their.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    That's not how the Bill of Rights works you twit.

  • Rhinehold||

    Forrest, it isn't your copy of the Bill of Rights that is out of date, it is your understanding of how the Constitution works... It is not a listing of the rights the citizens retain, it is a documentation of the limits upon which government can act.

    Do I really need to pull the quotes from Jefferson and Madison on this specific topic? About how many didn't want a 'Bill of Rights' because "in the future some (deleted)s will come along and try to say that we ONLY had these rights listed?"

    And reread the 9th and 10th amendments again as well, you might find them 'illuminating' if your statist views don't get in the way of understanding their meaning...

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    It's not like Happy Meals are banned, you drama queens.

    By definition a 'Happy Meal' is a child's meal with a toy. So yes, by banning the toy they are banning happy meals.

    And yes, apparently your copy of the constitution is out of date. The power to regulate which plastic shapes can be offered with your meal is clearly an infringement on individual rights. (here, you can have plastic molded into the shape of a straw, and molded into the shape of a cup, and molded into the shape of a spoon/fork hybrid abomination, but thou shalt have no plastic molded into the shape of a small car that won't roll quite right because the cheap plastic wheels aren't round and the axles bend too much)

    Rights to personal freedom include a right to conduct free and fair commerce. To make the included toy argument a little more clear - what if they instead included an unattractive brown lump of plastic? would that be OK? What about skipping the meal altogether and selling a lump of plastic? How about if I only sell the lump of plastic to adults? What if I mold the plastic into the shape of a penis? This is why regulating what people can and cannot sell based on "morality" issues is stupid. If it is the shape of an object you are objecting to, then it is entirely the "speech" component of that object that offends. Therefore, the government has no role in regulating it.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Tulpa, we know that you = Forrest, so knock it off.

  • ||

    Man, I get tired of posting this.

    Amendment X:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

  • ||

    I think this all started with the tobacco suits and the smoking bans back in the 90's. It really desensitized people to the idea of government passing laws to coerce people into leading healthier lives. At the time the Onion had articles about taxes and bans on fast food, sodas, etc. People then said the idea of governments banning or taxing certain foods was ridiculous. Of course here we are in 2010 and that is happening. I've been paying a lot of attention to the Onion lately beacuse today's parodies are going to become tomorrow's true stories.

  • yojimbo||

    Do these people not understand that even though this ban might not directly affect them this is just part of it. If this keeps up it will not be long until anything the government says is "unhealthy" will be illegal. Sigh, just another reason way we should just wipe out cali and start anew. We could just flatten it and build a new state on top with hover cars and transportation pipes.

  • ||

    Have these morons actually measured how many calories are actually eaten by the child? In my experience you pretty much have to keep the toy away from the kid while he eats or he will play with the toy and forget the meal.

    Secondly, these utter simpletons completely ignore replacement. The only thing Happy about a Happy Meal is the damn toy. Take that away, and the kid is as apt to want to go straight to a Big Mac.

  • California||

    Note to selves: The Happy Meal is a gateway snack.

  • Butts Wagner||

    Seriously, this is the part that bugs me. Don't some of these fast food joints already sell the toys separately? Really, what is to stop the parents from buying the toy and a Big Mac for the kid? This ban doesn't really do anything. If you truly want to change behavior like this, you have to literally take away all options. Meaning, we each need a babysitter or we each get a bread ration each day. It's the only logical conclusion if you go down this path.

  • Mike Laursen||

    I wouldn't say it doesn't do anything. It puts about a dozen McDonald's franchises at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby McDonald's franchises that aren't in unincorporated areas.

  • Rural McDonald's||

    Suckers!

  • Some Guy||

    Look at the bright side, there is now an early lesson for lots of kids to distrust government meddling.

    Some day the 53rd President will talk about the first day he decided he needed to work to fix this country. The day they took away his Happy Meal toys when he was 7.

  • ||

    Mom, dad and junior walk into a sit down restaurant. The hostess brings over a couple of crayons and a page to color on. If junior orders the baked fish and slaw, he gets to keep coloring. But if he orders the chicken fingers and fries, they take his toys away?

    That's fucking racist!

    CB

  • cmace||

    Calories are irrelevant to a diet, we're not heat engines.

    Arterial plaques is at most 26% saturated fat, the the rest is polyunsaturated, the crap the govt is pushing.

    It may even be beneficial.
    http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/full/80/5/1102

    Reason has documented that no definitive research has been done on salt.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    Right! We're electron transport engines, and don't you forget it!

  • Burgomeister Meisterburger||

    Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, and anyone found with toys in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon!

    They'll be no more toymakers to the Burger King!

  • ||

    :) That was a gray, dark, ugly town. Just what we are headed for. Maybe we can bribe these Burger-misers with the toys that they desperately wanted when they were children, but didn't receive. I'm afraid that if we disobey their contrary, arbitrary laws we may not have flying reindeer to come and spring us from the hokey.

  • ||

    The idiotic ordinance says, in part...

    A Restaurant may not provide an Incentive Item linked to the purchase of a Single Food Item or Meal if it includes any of the following:
    (1) Excessive Calories. More than two hundred (200) calories for a Single Food Item, or more than four-hundred eighty-five (485) calories for a Meal;
    [...other stupid restrictions...]

    This seems easily and thankfully dodgeable by offering a side of carrots or apples with a toy for a dime.

    But more pain on the menus. More pain on the stores. More pain on the patrons. All to satisfy the lawlust of a bunch of demagogues playacting at government.

  • West Texas Boy||

    BuBuBu-But, the county government needs to serve the people, and if all the big problems are already solved, they have to make up new problems to solve.

    Do you guys realize that they need something to point at during the next election cycle? Why would you deny them a legislative accomplishment?

  • Mike Laursen||

    This is better than the Santa Clara County supervisors last great cause, building an multi-million dollar, very-much-unneeded new concert venue. They were foiled in that one by a lawsuit from the City of San Jose, who also wanted to build another expensive, unneeded concert venue.

    I guess the bright side is that this stupid toy ban isn't costing much.

  • ||

    Not like the bag tax, or the new 49ers stadium.

  • T||

    It seems like it's even easier to dodge. Make the toy available for purchase for a penny. Once you pay for it, it's no longer an incentive item.

  • Tulpa||

    Then someone can come in and by 500 of them for $5. For the free toy offer to be profitable, it must be linked to the purchase of something with a high profit margin.

  • Brett L||

    "Free toy with every purchase upon request"

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    How much does a Happy Meal cost, like $4? So...what if McDonald's started selling the toys for $4, and you get a free burger, fries, and drink with it? That would presumably be legal, and hilarious.

  • x,y||

    Like the foie gras ban in Chicago. We're not selling foie gras; we're selling a $50 salad, and it comes with a side of foie gras.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Half measures. Have the balls to instruct instruct citizens exactly what to eat under penalty of incarceration.

  • Arizona||

    And if they're Mexicans, straight to the death camps!

  • ||

    With Beans!

  • mr simple||

    I like the mentally retarded as much as the next guy, but this is just more evidence that there are some things we should't let them do, like supervise a county.

  • ed||

    I don't even want them to bag my groceries.

  • Abdul||

    An even better law would be to mandate that toys be given away with the purchase of unseasoned cous cous. Our kids would be svelte in no time!

  • Rich||

    I like the way you think, Abdul. Maybe we can mandate that toys be given away with good grades and monogamy.

  • ||

    Couscous is nothing but carbs, you monster.

  • Warty||

    No kidding. We don't want to destroy the kids' pancreases until you can harvest them.

  • Schoolyard Lurker||

    Want a Shrek action figure, little girl?

  • ||

    Well, I'm convinced. Fast Food purveyors are just like child snatchers, so obviously we need to regulate them till their asses bleed. The Purveyors, not the kids.

  • California||

    [Writing all this down]
    Thanks for the ideas, boys!

  • ||

    I actually want to inspire the Total Nanny/Police State. Its the only way to get people off their couches/tractors.

    *channels Marketing Bot from Futurama*

  • Warty||

  • Warty||

    Tim Hayward could use a punch in the cunt, couldn't he? I can't believe he comes from people who conquered a quarter of the world.

  • ||

    I guess the good people--the voters anyway--of Santa Clara can decide when they've had enough of this crap and vote for change. How likely is that?

  • ||

    [slaps knee]....good one!

  • Rich||

    I'm thinking free wings and meatballs at Happy Hour get eliminated next. 8-(

  • ||

    Its for your own good. Now get back to your mandatory jumping jacks, you fat sack of shit!

    (Read that in the voice of R. Lee Ermey)

  • Rich||

    But I do jumping jacks like *crazy* after Happy Hour, you fit sack of shat!

  • ||

    Not in the Hooters i hope. All the CO2 you'd produce would be an OSHA violation and would endanger the sexy waitstaff. Better not do em in the same room as your kids either, thats a no-no.

  • barfman's cousin||

    *barf*

  • ||

    $52 million budget shortfall, while next year's budget gap is projected to exceed $250 million.

    Pfft, peanuts.

  • California||

    Which are now illegal, because of The Children™.

  • ||

    If a few people can die from them, then we should totally ban them from the face of the earth! (did i do that right?)

  • California||

    Yes! Because every life is precious! And especially The Children™. Because we're counting on their tax revenues. And their smiling little faces, we hasten to add.

  • ||

    The mistake all these idiots make is that the choice here that the toy is influencing isn't Happy Meal or 6 oz. of celery, but between Burger King/Arby's/Wendy's and McDonald's.

    If you let your kid eat fast food you have already made the choice they don't want you to make. When this toy stupidity fails--as it must--the next step is banning all fast food advertising targeted toward children. After that, is the elimination of the kid's meal because it financially lures parents to take their kids to eat fast food.

    This and all other nanny legislation are all about the inability of authoritarian morons to accept that not everyone will make the choice they want them to make, so they decided to close off choices for them.

    It's the same damn story everytime: drugs, booze, cigarettes, TV, video games, movies, books, private cars...

  • cmace||

    All justified because we're paying for their healthcare.

  • cmace||

    The floodgates have just opened on this crap.

  • Joe Camel||

    the next step is banning all fast food advertising targeted toward children

    First they came for me...

  • Jenna Jaimeson||

    Then they came on me....

  • Mike Laursen||

    Meanwhile, all the yuppy parents (like me) take their kids to small-chain, sit-down family restaurants where we order the kid a grilled cheese and fries at three time the price McDonald's would charge. The nicest yuppy family restaurants even let the kid keep the crayons.

  • West Texas Boy||

    This and all other nanny legislation are all about the inability of authoritarian morons to accept that not everyone will make the choice they want them to make, so they decided to close off choices for them.

    You need to watch more American Idol, because you clearly are thinking too much for yourself and causing trouble. It's not that they're "authoritarian", it's because they care.

  • MNG||

    Jesus Christ, ANOTHER Shrek movie?

  • ed||

    Yup. Next in line: Weekend at Shrek's. You see, Shrek dies, and...but I don't want to give too much away. Suffice it to say, high jinks ensue.

  • ||

    As a fan of the Shrek movies and as someone who doesn't usually agree with MNG.....I have to agree with MNG. *shudder* i feel dirty.

    Based on the Austin powers series, I thought Meyers knew not to exceed a threequel. Oh well.

    Have Hope People, maybe Shrek 4 will be a worthy send off for the series. Though the commercials aren't inspiring....out-of-ideas much, hollywood?

  • ||

    Um, Myers is currently working on Austin Powers 4.

  • ||

    Damn. Times are tough all over i guess...

  • ||

    But what about The Love Guru 2?

  • Jersey Patriot||

    He shouldn't have exceeded a quel. The second and third movies were complete crap.

  • ||

    Animation is becoming like reality TV. It's so cheap to do, they will never stop cranking them out. Pay the voices actors, a couple of hack writers, and the rest of your meager budget only has to go to hundreds of computer nerds.

    If nothing else, imagine the savings on insurance involved in live action vs. animation.

  • Computer Nerd||

    I went $60,000 in debt for this? You wouldn't believe the conditions here...one piss break per four hours, no personal phone calls...here comes the commandant! Gotta go.

  • Commandant||

    Macht schnell, arschloch!

  • Computer Nerd||

    They took me to a detention cell. I'm sending this with my Blackberry. Hope it gets out. Send help! Not much time to

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for computer animation/cgi apps that make it easy enough to do with just one person.

    Yeah, its easier than back when we used sweatshops full of frame drawers but its still not easy enough for 1 person to accomplish more than a few seconds of footage every month. I need to hire a team of South Korean kids if i ever wanna see my ideas get rendered.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    Not true at all. You can make very watchable animations using real-time engines readily available in everyday computers. Google "Red vs Blue" for a simple and funny example.

    It is fairly trivial to create your own characters and settings for engines such as the Unreal engine. No, you won't get subtle facial expressions... or really much of anything in that realm at all.... but you can get the tools to do a complete animated feature all by yourself.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    Following on this idea, many of the children's TV shows are done using motion capture and facial expression detection to directly animate the features. These are tools that a single person could use to make his own animated feature (albeit with some difficulty). The cost of acquiring these tools would be in the neighborhood of obtaining professional film equipment, so it is well within the reach of the serious enthusiast.

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    And the South Park team uses some relatively simple CGI tools to animate an entire episode in a matter of hours. Using similar tools a single person could produce a 30 minute animation in a month or so... definitely more than a few seconds.

  • ||

    Definitely food for thought. Motion capture really isn't that expensive, and would save loads of time in production. Thanks for the idea!

  • ||

    After a long cycle off his meds, MNG recovers his wits just in time to make a cogent statement on.....a fucking cartoon movie.

    Nice to have you back.

  • ¢||

    I'm thinking free wings and meatballs at Happy Hour get eliminated next.

    I live in one of the cities where nanny laws are born (because I have to). Happy hour is soon to be banned outright.

    The measure has failed every time it's come up for a vote, but they always get closer to passing it, because the local news relentlessly pushes unsubtly racist MADD-generated NPR-demographic-scaring stories whenever the ban cycles back to the top of the city's list of evil plots.

    First they came for the wings. Free chicken made the eight black guys in town drive drunk or something. That was about five years ago. I miss the wings (and drunk black guys).

  • Tulpa||

    I live in one of the cities where nanny laws are born (because I have to).

    Unless you're a public officeholder, you don't have to.

  • ||

    For the record, I ate quite a bit of fast food when I was a kid, particularly during high school. And I was never even close to being flabby. I think it would appall these county supervisors to know just how many calories I'd ingest at a sitting.

  • ||

    Not everyone can be a bulimic like you.

  • ||

    Just an insanely charged metabolism. And I'm 6'2, which gives me more places to hide fat.

  • x,y||

    No doubt. When I was in high school I would crush two value meals and then grab a chocolate shake for good measure. I was about 5'9 and 150 lbs., ran track and cross country, and dabbled in soccer and tennis. And those were just the "official" sports. Now I'm 30, and because I can't eat like that and still maintain my svelt figure, I DON'T. Personal responsibility. Crazy, ain't it?

  • BeavisAndButthead||

    I'll second (or 3rd) that! I was 6'0" and 110 pounds at high school graduation. I was eating as much as I could physically take and still couldn't put on weight. A large 3 topping pizza for lunch was not a heavy meal. 6,000 calories in a day was normal. Now I'm 45 and I don't eat like that. I'm in relatively good shape at 170, but 2,600 calories is closer to my maintenance diet. Getting old sucks.

  • ||

    This is stupid. What is the big deal, an occasional happy meal won't make you fat, a steady diet of nothing but happy meals combined with no exercise will.

  • GORGES||

    but the occasional marijuana makes me crave the happy meal. It's all connected.

  • ||

    I'm surprised the California Legislature hasn't passed a law requiring live actors in all movies made or shown in the state.

    It's not like they have anything else to take care of.

  • Polynikes||

    I love stories like this on Reason because they really bring out the high quality snark. It's a nice counterbalance to Bailey's bp raising stories...

    Carry on, Reasonoids!

  • Warty||

    I hope that the "food fascists" in the title is a nod to Patriot Henry.

  • West Texas Boy||

    There used to be a pizza restaurant in my hometown that would give arcade tokens to kids for the A's on their report card. Show up with good grades and you could play video games for hours.

    The kids had an additional incentive to do well in school, the parents got to take the kids out and let them run wild for a couple of hours (without continuously asking for money for the games), and the restaurant cleaned up every 6 weeks during report card season.

    This was 20-30 years ago when I was in grade school. I suspect that is now officially a bygone time and that today's nannies would NEVER let smart marketing like that work in this day and age. I mean, do you people know how many calories and fat are in pizza and sugary soda?

    Of course not, hence we need the nannies.

  • EJM||

    You're likely thinking of Chuck E. Cheese (and/or the old Showbiz Pizza, which was incorporated into CEC some time ago); however, it looks like they still do offer that.

  • EJM||

    I hate to say this, Tim, but KMW beat you on this by over a day.

  • alan||

    In the face of this kind of monumental failure of governance, Yeager should be impeached for wasting the public's time with this asinine new law.

    I whole heartily concur if we can amend the word 'impeach' to mean 'throw in to a shark with a bucket of bloody viscera.'

  • alan||

    I meant throw into a shark tank. The way described in the above post, the one gulp solution, is much too humane for public officials and the Food Stasi.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    These communist mother fuckers literally want to steal my kids toys now. Jesus god damn christ. Fuck them.

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